Climate change is altering the physiology and phenology of an arctic hibernator

  • Helen E. Chmura (Contributor)
  • Cassandra Duncan (Contributor)
  • Brian M. Barnes (Contributor)
  • Charles Buck (Contributor)
  • C. T. Williams (Contributor)



Climate warming is rapid in the Arctic, yet impacts to biological systems are unclear because few long-term studies linking biophysiological processes with environmental conditions exist for this data-poor region. In our study spanning 25 years in the Alaskan Arctic, we demonstrate that climate change is affecting the timing of freeze-thaw cycles in the active layer of permafrost soils and altering the physiology of arctic ground squirrels (Urocitellus parryii). Soil freeze has been delayed and, in response, arctic ground squirrels have delayed when they up-regulate heat production during torpor to prevent freezing. Further, the termination of hibernation in spring has advanced 4 days per decade in females but not males. Continued warming and phenological shifts will alter hibernation energetics, change the seasonal availability of this important prey species, and potentially disrupt intraspecific interactions.
Date made availableMay 29 2023

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